Edler, Cahill talk legislative priorities during school board meeting
Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center) and Rep. Sue Cahill (D-Marshalltown) discussed their goals for the upcoming legislative session along with the Marshalltown Community School District’s legislative priorities during the regularly scheduled school board meeting Monday night.
Prior to the meeting, Superintendent Theron Schutte forwarded Edler and Cahill a list of legislative priorities from the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB), as well as a list that was more specialized to the MCSD so they would have a general idea of the district’s needs.
Schutte said that when deciding on legislative priorities, school districts throughout the state agreed to prioritize support for public school education and all students, school funding, mental health support for both students and employees and workforce challenges.
Cahill began by establishing that she is currently in the minority in the House as a Democrat. She believes the upcoming session will be “interesting” and stressed bipartisan teamwork.
“One of my chief goals is that I’m going to really work to make a lot more friends across the aisle. I think that we all need to work, be very vigilant about working with our colleagues, no matter what their party is, to try and find consensus on areas that we agree on and that we can come to say ‘This is what’s good for Iowa kids,’ but I also have the feel that it’s going to be a difficult session for a person in the minority,” Cahill said.
Cahill said that she hasn’t been appointed to any committees yet, but since she has sat on the Education and Educational Appropriations committees, as well as the Veterans and Labor committees for the last several years, she anticipates remaining on them.
Cahill also discussed the newly formed Educational Reform committee, which was formed to address some of the issues on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ priority list. The committee is chaired by House Speaker Pat Grassley, but the other four members of the committee are yet to be determined.
“I know from reading the Governor’s platform that vouchers for students, or student scholarships, or educational savings accounts — they have a number of names — are a priority for the Governor, and I will still remain a champion of public monies need to go to public schools,” Cahill said. “(In) public schools, we serve every student, we cannot turn anyone away. We have a set curriculum that’s put forth by the state that we must adhere to. We have those standards that are set forth and so I am a champion for all the students in Marshalltown, the families in Marshalltown and in Marshall County.”
Cahill said she would work to keep public money in public schools and strive to keep it from being diverted to private schools. She shared that she herself opted to send her own children to a private school, but that was a personal choice and she felt public money should not go towards a parent’s decision to invest in private school.
Though Cahill does not support diverting that funding to private schools, she stressed that she is also an advocate for school choice. She said parents should make decisions they feel are in their child’s best interests, but it should not have to be supported by taxpayers.
In addition to public/private school funding, Cahill also touched on school transparency. She supported parents knowing what curriculum and programs their children are participating in, but she believes “extreme” measures like having cameras in classrooms or requiring every document provided to students to be posted online goes a step too far. If parents have a complaint, Cahill said they should first take it up with the classroom teacher.
Edler discussed the efforts he has made over the years to secure funding for school districts throughout Iowa, and though he said the amounts are not always what districts are looking for, he said he has aggressively worked to help districts with funding and plans to continue doing that.
“Some of the amounts that we get, we don’t always agree on, but I’ve got to be a champion for both public schools, taxpayers, parents. I’ve got lot of champions I have to work for, so trying to come to a consensus and getting to workable numbers isn’t always what everybody wants, but at least when we say we’re going to deliver it, we have always delivered it,” Edler said.
Moving on from funding, Edler also addressed mental health and said that over the last several years, they have worked to address gaps in mental health treatment. He conceded, however, that there are still “a number of gaps” they are working to bridge. He also discussed workforce challenges and said the reality is that many industries are struggling to find and maintain quality employees. He said in previous legislative sessions they looked at addressing childcare to bring more parents into the workforce who were not able to work due to child care difficulties.
Finally, Edler addressed a proposed bill that would allow a portion of funding to follow eligible students to private schools. Edler argued that public monies are already going to private institutions through School Tuition Organizations (STOs) and Iowa Tuition Grants, and it has been going on for years. STOs are organizations that use tax credits for minority students to go to private schools based on parent choice. Iowa Tuition Grants are geared more towards private college scholarships.
Board member Jan McGinnis was concerned about channeling public money into private schools because she felt it would, in a way, legalize segregation. Edler responded saying that they wouldn’t be giving the money to the schools per se, but instead back to the parents.
“That does not change my view. If the parents all choose to segregate because we’ve done that, then we have basically allowed segregation again, and since I don’t think it’s our minority parents who are likely to make that choice, I think we need to be very careful about it,” McGinnis said. “There’s a fear of corruption. I’m just, I’m really leery of that. This is public money, I pay taxes, I expect it to go to public services, I do not expect my tax dollars to be diverted into private industry.”
Edler responded, saying that his main priority has always been to provide kids with the opportunity to receive a quality education.
“I’ve worked very hard for public education. I’ve really kept any flatline bias out with the exception of, I want to make sure every kid has an opportunity, and every parent has the available opportunity to help their child be successful, and for me, it doesn’t necessarily matter which avenue,” Edler said. “In most of the individuals that I’ve seen, they don’t want public money. Who this is getting to are some of the lower income individuals who can’t afford private schools or don’t get the STOs help. At least that’s the bill I was voting on a year ago.
McGinnis was still not convinced and maintained her opposition for the proposed bill.
“I think it’s how it’s being sold. I’m not sure it’s how it’s going to work,” McGinnis said.
That bill aside, Edler still voiced his support for public education, and said he would continue to work with Iowa superintendents to provide the best education possible for young Iowans. Edler and Cahill also briefly discussed teacher salaries and other avenues to address staff shortages during the discussion with the board.
In other business, the board:
• Recognized community mental health care providers for their efforts in the last few weeks after the tragic deaths of four Marshalltown teens in a fatal car accident.
• Held a public hearing on the lease of Arnold Park with no community comments, and approved an updated 10-year lease to the City of Marshalltown.
• Approved the sale of the MCSD’s 1998 Ford Ranger and the purchase of two new vehicles in the amount of $71,252.
• Reelected Sean Heitmann as board president and Sarah Faltys as Vice President.
• Approved the application to the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) in the amount of $2,341.08 for special education administrative costs associated with the River Hills Consortium program.
• Approved the Treasurer’s Annual Settlement as presented.
• Heard a presentation from the Marshalltown Learning Academy, the Teen Outreach Program, an art curriculum update and an update from the Student School Board Representatives.
Contact Susanna Meyer
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